We have officially completed the final day of our international tour to Indonesia and Vietnam, and we spent this last day by visiting the Mekong Delta near Ho Chi Minh City. When we arrived, we boarded small boats which took us to a little village across the river. There, we saw a small factory where coconut candies of many varieties are produced, and we all had an opportunity to purchase several packages of this candy.
After visiting the candy factory, we then walked a short way to carts that were pulled by donkeys which we rode to our next location, a small outdoor rest area where we were given fruit and entertained with traditional Vietnamese music. We then got on yet another boat, but these particular boats only seated four people each. We were taken back to our main boat by a short ride through a stream surrounded by beautiful plant life.
We then had lunch at a beautiful location at which we arrived by boat. This was our last moment together before heading to the airport to begin our long journey home, and Dr. Crane took this opportunity to thank a few people for their efforts during these past three weeks; the president and vice-president of BYU Singers, Tyrell Wilde and Laynee Overall, who have been exceptional in day-to-day organizational efforts; the golden standard of a graduate assistant, Heidi Webb, who has assisted in all things choral, the staging efforts of each performance, and helped to provide snacks and other necessities for the choir; and our tour manager, Rex Barrington, and his wife, Dixie Barrington, who have been phenomenal in the scheduling of each and every day, as well as keeping us healthy throughout our time in new countries. He obviously wouldn’t thank himself, but Dr. Crane has been an incredible source of direction for the choir throughout these past three weeks. The feelings of unity and love within the choir would not have been possible without his constant positive attitude and his preparation of each concert and rehearsal.
Through Rex Barrington’s careful preparation, we were each given a unique and valuable experience in both Indonesia and Vietnam. We visited several major cities including Jakarta, Bandung, Surakarta, Yogyakarta, and Bali in Indonesia and Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. BYU Singers gave incredible performances in each concert venue and touched the hearts of each audience member. This international tour to Southeast Asia has been invaluable to each person who participated, and there is a clear strengthening power that we have felt in coming together to share the gifts with which each of us have been blessed.
Today felt very familiar as it was similar to that of last Sunday during our time in Hanoi. We had some time this morning to rest and prepare for our day after which we went to lunch at a beautiful restaurant. The staff was very kind once again and brought out a cake to celebrate yet another birthday today. After we finished our meal, we rushed over to attend the LDS branch meeting in Ho Chi Minh. The small chapel was filled with members before we even entered the building, so it became quite packed as we filed into the space.
After a beautiful service that was translated by the full-time missionaries serving here, BYU Singers had a rehearsal to prepare for their devotional performance tonight. They sang many of the hymns that they have performed throughout this tour. The congregation was moved by many of these pieces, but perhaps the most touching was One Sweet Little Baby. The lyrics “we have come so far” truly hit home tonight as the choir sang this angelic message.
Many members of BYU Singers fought back tears throughout the devotional tonight as the realization hit that this would be their last time singing these pieces together. The performances throughout this tour have been a life-changing experience for all those involved: the audiences, the choirs with whom we have collaborated, the conductors, and ourselves. It’s an incredible experience to perform and listen to the same piece of music but have unique feelings towards different moments each time they are performed. Choral music is a truly transcendent form of communication.
With tonight’s last formal concert of tour, we are facing the realization that our time in Southeast Asia is quickly coming to an end. We began the day with some sightseeing. First we visited a spot in the city where little shops are set up to sell local produce and flowers. Our tour guides purchased food from them so we could experience a little bit of what it tastes like. It was delicious! At many times, however, the sight of live frogs or sea life was almost too much to handle.
Memorable days have consistently occurred throughout our tour of Southeast Asia, and today was no exception. This morning we began the day with breakfast at our hotel and then drove to the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Conservatory of Music. We spent a couple of hours at this location getting to know the choir of this beautiful school. Together both choirs rehearsed When the Trumpet Sounds which they will be performing together tomorrow night. Then the HCMC Conservatory of Music Choir performed a piece for us, and BYU Singers returned the favor. It was an uplifting experience getting to know this choir a little more. After singing together, BYU Singers went through a few staging concerns for the concert they had tonight at this same location.
We began this morning in Ha Long Bay aboard the cruise ship. We were taken to a small island with steps that lead up to a cave, and we were able to go inside and look around. The view from the top of the island was stunning, especially with the early morning sun. After we returned to the boat, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast before returning to the city to board our bus.